Examination of Wilson Combat’s Highest Quality Custom 1911 Self Defense Handgun
Wilson Combat is a leading custom gun maker. Wilson Combat is known for making superb firearms, especially high end model 1911 handguns and magazines that function for many years. Over the years, with hard work and innovation, Wilson Combat built a reputation for excellence. So how does the Wilson Combat 1911 Tactical Supergrade fit into this?
Wilson Combat is one of the top 1911 gun makers in the world. Wilson Combat tells us that the 1911 Tactical Supergrade is their finest full size defensive handgun. When you combine both facts, you can easily see how the Wilson Combat 1911 Tactical Supergrade is one of the finest handguns on the planet.
The Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade is a fine work of art that functions well for self-defense in any weather condition and any environment. But the 1911 Tactical Supergrade, as its name implies, can also be taken into any combat zone with equal success. With this context, you can see that we will be reviewing a fascinating and unique firearm. We will take a close, hard look at the Wilson Combat 1911 Tactical Supergrade, my trusted Tactical Supergrade, which I waited nine long months to get, and with which Iﾒve fired over 6,000 rounds of different 45 ACP ammo during the past few years.
I’ll share pictures, specifics, and a range report. I’ll also share my experience with Wilson Combat’s customer service, to complete the picture of ownership and provide a summary with pros and cons.
The Entity Known as Wilson Combat
Wilson Combat was founded in 1977 by Bill Wilson in a peaceful part of Arkansas. Bill Wilson is a skilled and talented man trained in fine jewelry and watch repair; he is also an accomplished hunter and shooter. Bill Wilson took those fine metal forming skills, great attention to details in very small parts, and his passion for firearms, and started the tiny Wilson’s Gun Shop in the fall of 1977. He built and modified guns, first for himself, then for friends and fellow competitors and later for customers.
Wilson Combat started as a small business above a jewelry store and turned into a thriving and successful business. Today, Wilson Combat makes some of the finest 1911 pistols, as well as high end rifles. Wilson Combat is still a small business with 50 or so employees. The gunsmiths at Wilson Combat produce a relatively small number of firearms each year, some built as specific models, and some as custom built guns based on specific customer requirements. By investing in resources and innovation and setting the highest possible bar for customer service, Wilson Combat earned a reputation for a constant strive to excellence. Despite being a small business, Wilson Combat has 45 patents and other significant awards to its name.
Bill Wilson himself is legendary. Wilson was an outstanding competitor, who won numerous matches and national titles, before retiring to focus on his business full time. Bill Wilson is a member of the American Pistolsmiths Guild, a small and brilliant group of the very best gunsmiths alive today. And Bill Wilson, the father and creator of the Tactical Supergrade, even won the guild’s most prestigious honor and was named “PISTOLSMITH OF THE YEAR 2002.”
The folks at Wilson Combat take great pride in the firearms and accessories they build, as well as their legendary customer service. In this article I’ll look at each of these areas of pride and see if they are indeed justified.
The Tactical Supergrade I’ll Be Examining Here
Part of the value I offer is based on my experience. And this article is no different. We’ll be looking at and talking about my carry Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade, so this review is (as all my reviews) based on the real things and not on Internet research or “I saw one once…” . The Tactical Supergrade is considered the best self-defense handgun from one of the premier custom shops in the world. That to me means two things: first, that the most experienced and skilled gunsmiths, using the very best materials and components, will produce an outstanding work of art. Second, that this work of art will be expensive.
The base Tactical Supergrade starts at $4350.00 (in late 2010) and then each addition and/or modification costs extra. I made several modifications to my model, with the most significant being a removable Dawson Precision light rail.
This modification allows me to choose whether the Tactical Supergrade rides in a normal, highly concealed 1911 holster while wearing Crimson Trace Lasergrips or, whether the Tactical Supergrade carries a light and/or laser such as the Surefire X400 in a thigh holster or fanny pack. That flexibility has proven itself to be priceless and to me this and other Supergrade modifications were well worth the final price. On a sentimental note, I was able to purchase this weapon after winning an award of excellence, which makes this handgun even more valuable and symbolic to me.
Close Look at the Tactical Supergrade
Everything about the Supergrade is impressive. The workmanship is superb and the materials are of the highest quality. As Wilson Combat accurately states: “Hand crafted from carbon steel, the Tactical Super Grade is optimized for use as the ultimate defensive handgun – which happens to have the beauty and workmanship that have made the Wilson Combat Super Grades the standard to which all other custom pistols are compared. The Tactical Super Grade redefines the term “state-of-the-art” in every way possible.” So what does that mean? Simply that the Wilson Combat Supergrade is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. But read on because it gets even better.
When I get a new 1911 I first look it over. I look at the attention to detail; I seek sharp edges and imperfections in the finish. Then, I pick it up and check for balance and fit in my hand. I check the sights and only then pull the slide back and gently let it move forward again. Many people test the slide to frame fit (because that’s the only thing they know how to check), so to make these folks happy, I’ll say that the slide to frame fit is perfect. It was perfect 6,000 rounds ago and it is still perfect today!
The Tactical Supergrade is aesthetically pleasing, with fine smooth lines, serration of the top of the slide as well as the rear of the slide. The finish is superb and you can see that the metal itself is flawless. The magazine release is smooth and easily drops a magazine, but it also offers a bit of resistance to protect from accidental release. The trigger is smooth, without creep or over-travel and breaks cleanly at 3.5 pounds. The slide moves or rather glides back and forth. I hate clich￩s, but in this case I can say that the movement of the slide is as smooth as butter and feels as though it is gliding on a perfect glass surface. I love 1911 handguns and no gun feels better in my hand than a 1911. And, among all of my custom 1911 handguns, only one other 1911 feels as good in the hand as the Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade (the Les Baer SRP).
For more specific details, the Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade is a big, heavy gun. It is made from Carbon Steel, uses a full length guide rod and comes with night sights. My Tactical Supergrade comes in 45 ACP, which means that it uses 8 round magazines. It has Wilson Combat sights with Trijicon tritium inserts, and I opted to have the rear sights glow in yellow and the front with green for faster and better sight picture. The Tactical Supergrade is a Government Sized model 1911, which means that it has a 5″ barrel. Its overall length is 8.7″ with a sight radius of 6.6″. As it is made from Carbon Steel, the Supergrade is heavy at 46.2oz when loaded and 38.1oz on the rare occasion that it isnﾒt. To give the Tactical Supergrade a more streamline look, the slide stop was cut flush with the frame. This offers a nice visual, but makes disassembly more difficult.
For complete, 100% reliability, Wilson Combat provides high-quality “Bullet-Proof” extractor and extended ejector. In fact you get two extractors, which are serrated at the rear, since the Tactical Supergrade comes with a spare, and already tuned, extractor. As far as “basic” custom modifications, Wilson Combat gunsmiths provide a throated and polished barrel and feed ramp, and a lowered and flared ejection port.
To make the Tactical Supergrade look and feel better in the hand, the front strap and flat mainspring housing are checkered at 30 LPI (Lines per Inch). I really appreciate the 30 LPI serration since it offers a solid grip, even when your hands are sweaty or wet from rain. Even while gripping the Tactical Supergrade hard during usage, the serration offers no discomfort. Finally, you get a very handsome pair of hand selected wood grips that have the Wilson Combat logo embedded in their center.
The Tactical Supergrade has a base configuration that has pretty much anything an owner would want, but since Wilson Combat is a custom shop, they can do pretty much anything you want as long as it is safe and legal. My Supergrade has three holes in the dust cover to allow a light rail to be added and removed at will. The rail is connected to the dust cover with three screws and in my case it holds a Surefire X400. When the rail is connect it feels integral to the gun and is rock solid. I have shot countless rounds, first with the Surefire X200, then the Surefire X300, and now with the Surefire X400. I’m pretty sure this superb weapon will serve me well when the Surefire X500 hits the market on some remote, future day.
Shooting the Tactical Supergrade
Before going to the range, I disassembled the Supergrade and lightly lubricated it, despite seeing that this was already done at the Wilson Combat shop. Having owned lots of firearms from various vendors, I know that many guns require some break-in period before they can be relied upon for self-defense use. From my experience that statement translates to different failures to feed a round or eject it, an exceedingly frustrating and disappointing experience.
The Tactical Supergrade comes ready to go out of the box. I remember that the first magazine I loaded was full of Winchester Ranger JHP ammunition. The Tactical Supergrade loved the Ranger ammo as it did the Speer Gold Dot and Federal Hydra Shocks (I now use the newer Federal HST). The Tactical Supergrade took every type and brand of self-defense and range ammo. Not once did it fail to feed, fire or eject. The extra weight from the Carbon Steel and the perfect balance helped control recoil. Achieving accuracy with this handgun almost seemed too easy.
In summary, the Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade shot like a dream, and after undergoing such a superb experience, other guns felt not quite up to par. If you collect firearms, be warned that it will be very hard for you to find comparable guns.
Wilson Combat Customer Service
After using the Tactical Supergrade for a month or two, I decided to make it my home defense gun. I put the Dawson light rail back on but couldn’t mount one of weapon lights. It worked with one brand but not with the other. I called Wilson Combat and explained the problem. I was told to ship it back to them (at their expense) for adjustments. At that point the gun was pretty scratched after an unfortunate dive at a competition and lots of training on quick magazine loads.
Today I find it amusing, but at the time I didn’t want the gunsmiths to see what I did to their work of art, but there was no way around it and so I shipped it back on Monday. I was amazed to get the gun back on Friday, and even more amazed when I realized that the Wilson Combat smiths fixed the problem and refinished my handgun to make it look new again. Total charge for this experience was $0ﾗWilson Combat covered everything and exceeded my very high expectations. They even sent me a few new magazines (which I still use). I have never had any gun company, or any company for that matter, meet or beat the Wilson Combat customer service.
The Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade is a superb weapon and a functional work of art. It is inherently reliable and accurate, while at the same time being large and heavy. The Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade is expensive, with a base price of $4350.00 (in late 2010), and I’d argue that it is worth that price because of the skill that went into building it and the high quality materials that make the Supergrade a gun for a lifetime.
Because Wilson Combat is a custom shop, you can add or remove any feature, as long as it is safe and legal. I’m delighted with the removable light rail and with the Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade. As for pros and cons, the pros are numerous but I’ll focus on 100% reliability in any weather or environmental condition, amazing accuracy and superb customer service should you ever need it. On the cons side, there is a few months’ worth of waiting (always check first because this is very dynamic), the high sticker price and the weight. I could argue that none of these cons really matter, but it’s not my place to do so.
Therefore, if you are in the market for a high end 1911 and are willing to spend money for absolute quality and the best customer service you can imagine, then I’d encourage you to take a good hard look at the Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!